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Bali's Taxi War Turns Violent

Bali Police Make Arrests as Some 20 Taxis of the Blue Bird Fleet Damaged in Rampage by PJWB Members.

(6/14/2010) Bali police have taken a taxi driver, Made Budiartha, into custody for his participation in damaging 21 taxis owned by Bali Taxi (Blue Bird Taxi) on Tuesday, June 8, 2010, when he together with members of a local taxi association staged street demonstrations that included attacks on their competitors cars.

Police authorities are also seeking six accomplices, also local taxi drivers and members of the Tourism Transportation Association (Paguyuban Jasa Wisata Bali PJWB).

According to Beritabali.com, Budiartha has been formally charged by the police, who indicate more charges will follow once the additional suspects are interrogated.

Police say they have photographic evidence of the unrest and 11 witnesses documenting PJWB attacking Bali Taxis/Blue Bird Taxis and members of the press covering the conflagration.

A police spokesman said Budiartha has admitted his act to the police and has been charged with participating in public violence (KUHP 170) which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years and 6 months in prison.

Two local television reporters covering the street demonstrations were attacked by PJWB members who confiscated and damaged their camera. A police complaint has been filed by at least one of the journalists despite a subsequent apology from the PJWB.

The street violence is part of a long-standing dispute between PT Praja Bali Transportasi, also known as Bali Taxi, who operate under the Blue Bird brand and a group of competing taxi companies in Bali affiliated under the umbrella of PJWB. Central to the dispute are contentions by PJWB that Blue Bird operates illegally in Bali, the company's overwhelming popularity with the public and Bali Taxi's desire to add new vehicles to their fleet - seen by PJWB as unfair competition to their members.

PJWB's claim to the contrary, a judicial review team recently reviewed the PT Praja Bali Transportasi operations in Bali and determined the company and its operations to be legally constituted.

In reviewing the case, the Jakarta Globe aptly described the protagonists in Bali's taxi war in the following manner: "Blue Bird is known for its high service standards and security. Many passengers opt to use it because of its reputation for reliability, and because customers are urged to report any problems to the company. The local associations, in contrast, are sometimes accused of unfair pricing and coercion. Local taxis are often more expensive than Blue Bird."

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